Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke

By now many of you will know that Sir Arthur C. Clarke has died. For those of you who don't know who Clarke was, let me put it this way, with the possible exception of Werner von Braun he did more for ushering in the age of space flight than any other person. He is credited with inventing the communications satellite. But probably more important is the fact that his fiction is the source of inspiration for so many scientists, astronauts and engineers today. This is a fact that he was aware of. In his address to congress he even said so, "I'm sure we would not have had men on the Moon if it had not been for Wells and Verne and the people who write about this and made people think about it. I'm rather proud of the fact that I know several astronauts who became astronauts through reading my books." While it might sound like great hubris for someone to say this, I don't really think he was a man of great ego. From everything I've read, Clarke seemed to be a man of insight, willing to state his point, taking pride in his role as a founding father of the space age, but not being so egotistical to think that he did anything more than plant the seed in some young minds and suggest a direction. In my standard fashion, I'd rather let the man words do the speaking. Here are a few quotes from Clarke that I think sum him up well.
It may be that the old astrologers had the truth exactly reversed, when they believed that the stars controlled the destinies of men. The time may come when men control the destinies of stars.
At the present rate of progress, it is almost impossible to imagine any technical feat that cannot be achieved - if it can be achieved at all - within the next few hundred years.
There is hopeful symbolism in the fact that flags do not wave in a vacuum.
A hundred years ago, the electric telegraph made possible - indeed, inevitable - the United States of America. The communications satellite will make equally inevitable a United Nations of Earth; let us hope that the transition period will not be equally bloody.

This last quote may disturb a few people. Just know that Clarke is not speaking in the New World Order sense of a United Nations of Earth. He just saw the potential of man and recognized the uniting factor that the new frontier of space might have for us. I find the hope and love that he had for humanity to be refreshing. Sadly he is gone.

Update:
Here is a last message.

1 comment:

David J. Williams said...

I think United Nations of Earth is *exactly* what he had in mind. Though perhaps not in the black helicopter sense. At any rate, nice post.